Most homeschool families take pride in doing things a little differently than the brick and mortar schools do. Take assessments as an example. Many parents feel comfortable assessing their children as they go through the work and find they do not really need a culminating assessment to measure mastery. Some prefer to avoid the pressures and procedures of testing they themselves loathed as students. Others find they have a curriculum without assessments, or they are included but are poorly constructed. Maybe you frequently use tests and quizzes but would just like to learn some alternative methods.
Good news: it’s your school! You can decide how to evaluate your student and you can handle it in as many different ways as you like. Here are a few ideas to help you create or spice up the often-dreaded examination.
- Teach it back – if your student can effectively teach the lesson back to you, they most likely know the concept well. You can even let them teach from the whiteboard or switch seats with you.
- Verbal assessment – allow your student to choose whether they would like to have a verbal assessment instead of a written one. Learning to articulate your thoughts is an important skill and this form of assessment can be a nice break from the traditional versions.
- I speak, you write – again, learning to listen to the question and instructions and then turn those into action is a skill just like being able to read a question and respond. Broaden your student’s repertoire with a variety of assessments.
- Alone – do you always have your student take assessments in your presence? You could consider allowing them to take the assessment alone. You can organize the environment so cheating is not an option, if that is a concern, or you can use it as an opportunity to build trustworthiness.
- Multiple-choice, true/false, short answer, matching? – with a little advanced planning with your student, you can let them choose the format for some of their assessments. You might be surprised by what they choose. As before, a variety of assessment formats is probably wise anyway as it only builds their skill set.
- Write it on the board – save a tree and create some variety by using the whiteboard for an assessment. You could even have them complete one problem or question at a time and then erase it when it is correct.
- Write your own test and answer key – this exercise might end up being a lot harder than your student imagines. You can provide some simple parameters such as a minimum of ten questions but allow them to construct the assessment as well as the answers themselves. You could allow this to be open book, but closed book is also effective. They are likely to choose the questions they know best and skip parts they are unsure of so you will quickly recognize what they know well and what could use some review or re-teaching.
- Be your own research project – some subjects don’t allow for a lot of creativity. For repetitive assessments, you could consider studying different environments. A spelling test could be taken at a desk, while listening to classical music or after a meal, just to describe a few scenarios. If your student finds (or just believes) they have the right conditions for success, let them use it. Talk about why some methods seem to be better for them than others. We don’t always get choices, though. You could even learn something from making the conditions intentionally challenging.
- Instead of a written exam, consider allowing your student to write a paper or give a presentation instead. You will create the rubric so you can ensure you get the evaluation you seek.
- Let them get creative. Most students enjoy the opportunity to bring some art to schoolwork. Posters, dioramas even a poem or some rap could be a fun way to show what they have learned.
While you are winning teacher of the year for your creative assessments, It would behoove you to stay familiar with your state guidelines. Some require homeschoolers to complete standardized tests and of course, many homeschoolers will still take the SAT and/or ACT for college admissions. It may be worth your time and your student’s time to get enough experience with more traditional examination formats so they have the opportunity to feel comfortable when required to show their knowledge in that manner.
Nathan Manley is a certified teacher and coach with a masters degree in education. He has taught multiple subjects, every age group and from Jamaica to California. Between his three children, his family has experience with public school, private school, charter schools, hybrid programs and full time homeschool. He believes music and film produced after 1989 is “meh.”